Plextor M5S 256GB Review

by Kristian Vättö on 7/18/2012 3:00 AM EST


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  • StevoLincolnite - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Another reason regarding Newegg reviews is, will all happy users post a review? Disgruntled customers are highly likely going to do so. Reply
  • themossie - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    There's a strong selection bias, but this bias should be similar for all SSDs. If you compare the percentage of (dis)satisfied reviews, it's a useful way to compare different SSDs - as long as you don't take the numbers too seriously on their own.

    The Plextor M3 256GB and 128GB SSDs rate 88% and 90% five eggs respectively, which is exceptionally high. Compare this with the OCZ Vertex 3 120GB (one of the most popular and highest ranking Sandforce drives) at 35% one and two egg reviews and 62% five eggs.

    I won't speak for the statistical significance of any of this (especially with the <100 review sample size for the Plextors) but it looks like very few people regretted buying a Plextor, something I like to hear about any product :-)
  • Zak - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I've just ordered 128GB and 256GB M3Pros, so I was a little upset when I saw this review of M5 but then it looks like other than higher price and 30MB/s increase I didn't miss much. But I wonder how fast the M5Pro will be.

    BTW, I don't believe that the current SSDs are significantly more reliable than hard drives (which is a bummer) so the 5 years warranty was the deciding factor for me. Plus, I was always a fan of Plextor products. Two of my older OCZ SSDs died in their second year, after the warranty was over. So I'm more mindful of warranties when buying stuff these days. The recent trend in lowering hard drive warranties is regrettable.
  • karasaj - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Statistically speaking, anything above thirty is actually considered "relevant, fairly reliable information"

    Granted, that might not be entirely true due to the insane selection bias, but since that's also present on all drives it might not matter.
  • Zak - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    "I checked NewEgg reviews for Plextor's M3 and M3 Pro and only 4.2% of the reviews (189 user reviews in total) were one or two eggs, which usually indicates a serious problem with the drive." -- or serious problem with the reviewer. For example I've see people giving SSDs poor reviews because they didn't run at the advertised speeds over 500MB/s on their SATA 3.0Gbps interfaces, etc. Reply
  • justaviking - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    And then there are people who get the ratings backwards.

    How many times have you read a glowing review ("I love my new drive!!!") but it has a rating of 1? Either they thought "1" meant excellent, as in "first place," or they forgot to enter a rating when they did their review.

    I've seen that on more than one site. Maybe the online retailers should use "3" as their default value.
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    "or serious problem with the reviewer"

    I first thought you meant me and was like why the attitude. Took me a while to figure out you mean NewEgg reviewers, not me - or at least that's the way I hope it is :-)

    I definitely agree with you though.
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I strongly disagree that Newegg reviews "mean squat". For items with similar buyers and *hundreds* of reviews, it quickly becomes clear when there is an unacceptably high failure rate for an SSD. Check out OCZ's Petrol series of SSDs for instance: Or the Vertex 2:

    Certainly, a bad review (1 - 2 eggs) does not equal failure in a 1:1 relationship, but you can bet that the correlation will be high. And highly statistically significant if there are enough reviews, even with self-selection bias.

    Would you really buy one of those OCZ Petrol drives to save $20, despite the preponderance of bad reviews? 72% are 1-2 eggs! That's a correlation.
  • yyrkoon - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    I agree with Kristian on this.

    Personally, I sometimes take newegg reviews more seriously on products like these. Simply, because Anandtech reviews are controlled, and limited by the amount of items they are given.

    However, you also have to be able to ascertain the given reviewers ( on newegg ) understanding of technology. Which thankfully is not too hard. You just need to read. Often, you will find that reviewer have very little understanding of what they are buying, if negative reviews are given. Passed that, ignoring the rating system of a given review, and understanding the product your self is a must,

    Sometimes, you will find that a negative review has merit. Then all you have to figure out. Is if the problem is something you can live with or not. Simple.
  • Nickel020 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Thank you very much for reviewing the drive. I only skimmed over the review (will read later), but I noticed that the prices in the table on the last page are completely different than what you get when you click on the links.

    It would also be nice if you were to include European prices as well, I think is a very good indicator of what drives actually sell for in Europe.
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    The prices were taken two days ago on July 16th, so some may have changed already. The idea is to provide some kind of idea of pricing, that's all. As you noticed already, prices change all the time so the table is only useful for a few days, hence I don't see a point in making a Europe table as well. Reply
  • Rick83 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    While geizhals/skinflint is a convenient tool, outside of Germany things usually get much more expensive.
    Occasionally a good deal in the UK, but component prices in France are often 10% higher, making even the 15 euro shipping appear attractive in some cases....
  • scbdpa - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    So would you recommend the m3pro or m5s to a user looking to buy a plextor ssd (128gb)? Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    If price is not a concern, the M3 Pro. It's noticeably faster and carries a 5-year warranty. Reply
  • scbdpa - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    price is not the problem. What about if the machine doesn't support TRIM (a standalone audio recorder)?

    still get the 3pro, or get the m5s with the better garbage collection?

  • name99 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Depending on what you're doing, an EXTREMELY important characteristic is power. Not idle power, but peak power (which is usually hit during sustained writes). In spite of what some people think, this number, for current SSDs, is usually substantially higher than the equivalent number for a 2.5" HD.

    So I'd say figure out what's the max sustained power your audio recorder can provide and use that to make your decision. If you don't know, anything below 2.5W (which is what USB-2 provides, and what most 2.5" HDs target) is safe, anything above that and you may be setting yourself up for random crashes.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I don't see why one would buy this over the Crucial M4. If I understand correctly, they They both use the same NAND and a similar marvell controller. It looks liek the Plextor firmware is tweaked for better performance, but I don't think there would be any real-life difference. FYI - I have both a Samsung and a Crucial 256GB SSD in my laptop (2 bays) and I can say for certain that their real-life performance is identical. Reply
  • sheh - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    How do you estimate the write amplification? Reply
  • shodanshok - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Quote, I'm interested on this.

    Moreover, it is a very pleasant surprise that Plextor managed to both deliver better write amplification and more aggressive garbage collector, as they are usually mutually exclusive.

  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I can't disclose our testing methods (they are kind of like our "trade secrets") but the basic formula for calculating WA is data written to the flash divided by data written by host. For example, if you go and copy a 1GB folder to the SSD and and the SSD ends up writing 3GB, WA would be 3x.

    Keep in mind that our WA estimation is a worst case scenario, not average WA.
  • shodanshok - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Hi Kristian,
    thank you for your reply.

    I understand that measuring WA is your "special sauce" (anything to do with SMART 0xE6-0xF1 attributes ? ;)), but the interesting thing is the Plextor was able to minimize WA while, at the same time, maximize idle GC efficiency.

    Other drivers that heavily use GC (eg: Toshiba and previously Indilinx controllers) seems to cause a much higher WA.

    Thank you for these comprehensive review.
  • sheh - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link


    I have to say, though, that it's difficult to give credence to data that is the result of undisclosed calculations, and not even by the hardware manufacturers.
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    The method we use was disclosed by a big SSD manufacturer a few years ago. It does not rely on SMART or power consumption, and it can be run on any drive.

    If we revealed the method we use, we would basically be giving it out to every other site. Tech industry is quite insolent about "stealing" nowadays, getting content from other sites without giving credit seems to be fine by today's standards.

    Also, our method is just one way of estimating worst case write amplification.
  • shodanshok - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Hi Kristian
    I totally understand your point.

    Thank you for these great reviews ;)
  • sheh - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I can't say I understand this logic, but so be it. Thanks for replying. :) Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    Does it work for Sandforce SSDs? Because I noticed your WA chart does not have any Sandforce SSDs.

    Are you just measuring the fresh out-of-box (or secure erase) write speed with HD Tune, then torturing the drives and then measuring the worst case write speed with HD Tune? Then saying WA = FOB write speed / worst case write speed ?

    If that is what you are doing, then I don't think it is very accurate. Any SSDs that have aggressive background garbage collection could make the "worst case" write speed fluctuate or stabilize at a value that does not reflect the worst case write amplification.
  • Kristian Vättö - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    SandForce drives break the chart, hence I couldn't include any. SandForce drives typically have worst case WA of around 2x, though.

    I still cannot say what our testing methods are. Anand has made the decision that he doesn't want to share the method and I have to respect that. You can email him and ask about our method - I can't share our methods without his permission.

    In the end it's an estimation, nothing more. How accurate, it's hard to say as it will vary depending on usage.
  • jwilliams4200 - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    So it is TERRIBLY inaccurate, because Sandforce SSDs actually have worst case write amplification of well over 10, just like other SSDs.

    In that case, I assume I was correct that you are just using ratio of write speeds from HD Tune, but since HD Tune writes highly compressible data, you are getting bogus results for Sandforce SSDs (actually, I should say, even more inaccurate for Sandforce SSDs than for non-Sandforce)

    Anand really needs to reconsider some of his policies. This "secret" test method is just absurd.
  • jwilliams4200 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    It all hinges on finding a way of measuring "flash writes", the amount erased/written to flash chips, as opposed to "host writes", which is easy to measure (the amount your computer writes to the SSD).

    Usually you can find or guess which one of the SMART attributes represents flash writes. You can start by doing large sequential writes to the SSD (for which the WA should be close to, but a little over, 1) and monitoring the SMART attributes to see which one changes like it is monitoring flash writes.

    I remember some time ago an anandtech article mentioned another way of doing it. I'm not sure if they are using this method now or not (I have my doubts about the accuracy of the method). It had to do with measuring the power usage and somehow correlating that to how much writing to flash is occurring. The reason I have doubts about the accuracy of the method is that it would require measuring a sort of "baseline" power consumption when writing to the flash, and to get the baseline you would have to control the conditions of the write (for example, doing it write after a secure erase) in order that you can guess/assume what the WA is, so that you will then be able to compute the WA in more complicated conditions based on the "baseline". But that is rather like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, so I would not trust the results.

    The first method I described is the way to go, unless the SSD does not have a SMART attribute that measures flash writes.
  • cserwin - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I have to say seing the Plextor brand name resurface kindles a warm, happy feeling.

    There was a time when they made the optical drives to have. A Plextor CD-ROM, a 3DFX Voodoo, a 17" Sony Trinitron, IBM Dekstar...

    Good luck, Plextor. Nice to see the old school still kickin.
  • sulu1977 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Years ago I read that SSDs can easily last a lifetime of normal use, and if they fail, you never lose any data. Now I'm getting the feeling that they can have a higher failure rate than mechanical HDs. This is very disturbing. What's the real truth here? Reply
  • sheh - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    What worries me is the data retention period. The JEDEC JESD218A standard requires, when powered off, only 1 year of retention for Client class drives, and 3 months for Enterprise. This can be higher or lower depending on temperature. I suppose real flash exceeds that, and I suspect drives actively "refresh" stored data when they're powered on, but that's just a guess.

    I'd like to see an AnandTech article on SSD reliability, including retention, write endurance, trends as manufacturing processes get smaller, SLC/MLC/eMLC/TLC, etc.
  • sulu1977 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Just curious; how many of you would be willing to put priceless photos on a SSD and store it in a drawer for 5 years? Reply
  • sheh - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    There's a lack of info on data retention, so no. Reply
  • flensr - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    How come SSDs seem to always come in 9.5mm when that means you can't use them in many of the newer thin laptops? a 7mm drive can come with a super cheap plastic shim that would make them fit into a 9.5mm chassis, but you can never fit a 9.5mm drive into a 7mm chassis. 9.5mm is a stupid size for an SSD, period. If the SSD is put into a desktop, tower, or HTPC case then the height doesn't even matter at all, and 7mm drives can fit into any laptop using the 2.5" format, normal, slim, or even the less common 12mm height ones.

    Reviews ought to point out that these 9.5mm drives are totally worthless for upgrading many many laptops now that the slim drives are becoming much more common. Maybe the SSD manufacturers will figure out that there is really no reason at all to make ANY 9.5mm drives, since a simple plastic adaptor will make a 7mm drive fit snugly into a 9.5mm chassis while maintaining compatibility with many more laptops overall.
  • scbdpa - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    the m3 pro is 7mm. maybe the m5pro will be, too Reply
  • ggathagan - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Why the vitriol?
    It makes you sound like a 12-year-old gamer on Xbox Live.

    He states the thickness on the 3rd page of the review.
    Given that there are many,many more laptops that CAN use the thicker drives, I don't know why you feel that extra attention needs to be given to that particular spec.

    While it may be over the minimum thickness needed for an SSD, the size has been around ever since the laptop hard drive has existed.
    I suspect that whoever 1st brought this type of SSD to market simply stuck with the same form factor and everyone else just followed suite.
    I doubt a different height was even considered until notebook manufacturers started getting serious about notebook thickness and someone had a light bulb go off in their head.
  • flensr - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Why the vitriol? You prove my point completely in your post. None of your "reasons" make any sense if they put any thought into it, and a 7mm drive would fit into ALL laptops, not just "many many more". So a smart intelligent design choice would lead to compatibility with "all", rather than not thinking about it at all which leaves a growing number of potential customers with a sharply reduced set of options.

    Hmm. I think that just about defines "stupid" when it comes to marketing and design. Hence, my description of the design as "stupid".

    As for what it "sounds like", you sound like a fanboi defending a stupid no-thought-involved design choice simply because the stupid decision doesn't impact you personally yet. You can try to explain it away all you like, but the fact remains that building 9.5mm SSDs excludes a growing percentage of the potential SSD customer base for no reason.

    Making it worse, even among companies that do sell 7mm height drives, there is no standard for putting this in the specs. One or two sellers list "7mm" as a height, some go with something like "0.28 inches", and at least one simply describes their drives as "thin enough for slim profile laptops".

    I'd have purchased at least 3 SSDs for my laptops by now, except that every time I start looking I find some lower-end ones listed as 7mm, some overpriced ones listed as "super slim on a diet!!!111one", and some with no thickness listed whatsoever that are out of stock yet which I know from a good review are the right size. After a while I put a "notify me" flag on one and give up. That's 3 drives I didn't purchase because the SSD manufacturers are building and marketing drives that exclude me, for no real technical reason. It is as if they don't want me to buy their drives. So I haven't yet. Maybe someday I'll go shopping for an SSD that got a good review, and it'll be competitively priced and have right in the specs "7mm height", and it'll be in stock. I'll buy right then. So far it's been a fight just to identify what size the drives actually are because they keep using the weird 9.5mm height for most drives and seem intent on hiding which drives are 7mm.
  • waldojim42 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Not sure what specs you need for a 7mm drive, but the M3 is 7mm and fits my W520 perfectly. Reply
  • JellyRoll - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    The excuse for not disclosing the calculation method for write amplification is weak, at best.
    This calls into question the trustworthiness of the data. Any website that uses 'secret' methods of measurement should be called into question. Does the measurement method favor certain controllers, or types of NAND? Or does advertising revenue affect the results?
  • waldojim42 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    I finally picked up my M3 about 2 weeks ago now, just in time for the M5s to be released. No regrets here. I am using this in my W520 notebook, and the machine loves it. It is disappointing to see how much performance the new drive lost just to make it more marketable. Reply
  • inplainview - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    There is no such thing as a pre-order. You either order or you don't order... Reply
  • alan1476 - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    Newegg reviews are very bias, only the people with drives that 1. They do not know how install, using ACHI Mode) or they are using the wrong posts, or they actually have a bad drive, you never know with those reviews. Everyone that buys from Newegg is an expert. LOL. Reply

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